Foodie Fashion: A Cupcake for Every Day

There aren’t many things I love about working in the retail industry. People return items they purchased ten years ago and wore down until it was totally unrecognizable; some get mad when you don’t say hello immediately; some get mad when you say hello. The list goes on. However, I will say that working in retail has turned me into a shopper for better or for worse. I won’t blow an entire paycheck on a new pair of shoes, but I have learned that a lot more people recognize someone’s sense of style than I previously thought. You can highlight your serious side, your playful personality, or your favorite decade all through your wardrobe. While I may have to add a few more conservative pieces to my closet now that I am about to begin law school, I do tend to gravitate towards a style that is 1/3 fun, 1/3 5 year-old, and 1/3 classic. With that comes my favorite coin purse in the shape of a cupcake.

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Although the cupcake craze has died down, I am still a firm believer that cupcakes are exciting, delicious, and colorfully fun. A few years ago, I picked up this cupcake coin purse from Kate Spade. It is just big enough to hold my ID and cards, some cash, lipstick, and a compact mirror. In other words, perfect for when you have a pocket in which to stash your phone and don’t want to carry much more. It is no longer available on Kate Spade, but there are some other fun styles from her website, including this one that I’ve attached here. Additionally, I found the same bag in other sizes attached here and here. I’m ready to buy all three to add to my collection now!

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#WineStudio: Feeling Inclined to Fetzer Wines

Happy May! I was a bit silent throughout April as I was freaking out, narrowing down my law school choices, and finally settling on attending Temple’s law school this August. Now that I have made my decision, I plan on spend these next few months focusing on something that may fall to the wayside once I start school again: wine. In addition, I’m trying to finish all the blogs I started in March and never got around to editing. Here’s my first one all about Fetzer Wines, a name with which I was familiar before starting the January #WineStudio.

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However, I was not aware of how large the greater umbrella of Fetzer Brands was, nor had I tried many of their bottles before 2018. I covered some of the wines that fall under Fetzer in my posts about 1000 Stories, Bonterra, and Adorada. Yet, I have not touched on the bottles that actually carry the Fetzer name. On all of the bottles we received, there were claims that the winery is a “Pioneer in Sustainability.” Over the course of the session, we learned that Barney Fetzer, who established the winery in 1968, wanted to cultivate earth friendly grapes that were both good for the land and good for the wine. Quality was important, but the manner to achieve a delicious wine for Mr. Fetzer started with being mindful of the vineyard. More and more wines may be popping up now claiming to take care of the land, but in 1968, I can’t imagine that philosophy was all that far-reaching.

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As a girl who usually opts for a red, I opened the 2015 Eagle Peak Merlot first. Merlot was my first love when I got into wine, even though I felt judged by everyone from my uncle to my friends. I liked that Merlot wasn’t too fruity and had some personality to it. I felt just as comfortable sipping on this wine in the dead of winter as I did on the beach in the summer. Also, as a millennial hipster-ish girl, I liked that so many people said they hated it. I like nothing as much as I like an underdog (Hufflepuff girl here!). The Fetzer Merlot was a pretty dark ruby color, and had aromas of dark plum, black cherry, and blackberry. Each sip was complex with those fruity elements coming through balanced by notes of coffee and a touch of forest earth. It had some character, but was a bit more reserved than a Cabernet Sauvignon. Despite those elements, it was still juicy, making it a crowd-pleaser to many. At $10, I think this is a great wine to stock up on as it will pair well with everything from grilled meats to spaghetti and meatballs. Any everyday sort of option.

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Although I enjoyed the Merlot, the 2016 Shaly Loam Gewürztraminer was the best pairing I have had in quite some time. For me, Gewürztraminer is a wine that needs food. Otherwise, it’s too sweet, even if it has a more subtle sweetness like this one. Pineapple was the most prominent note to me, and in general there was a very tropical quality to every sip. There was tangerine, honeysuckle, white peaches, melons, and all of that fruitiness was balanced by some very light brioche notes. This made it the perfect pairing for a very spicy bowl of noodles with pork and kimchee. The ripe fruit flavors balanced out the prevalent heat of the dish, and I would recommend the pairing to anyone who likes complex spicy food with a great wine. With a SRP of $11, it makes it the perfect sweet wine to pick up before visiting a BYOB in order to play around with flavors and pairings. Although I enjoyed all of the Fetzer wines we tried, this one was the brightest star and one that will stick with me for some time.

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The final bottle that I opened during this #WineStudio was the 2016 Sundial Chardonnay, which was a sunny golden color and a dependable option for many Chardonnay lovers. On the nose, there were full notes of lemon curd, pear, and some fragrant white flowers. On the palate, the wine began with some zing which mellowed out into a fruit forward wine that had some real linger to it. It was aged partially with oak, which created a lot of the roundness, as well as some of the sweeter notes of vanilla that came through as the wine opened up. However, this was not for me. I wouldn’t say that it was overly oaky, but I cannot handle any oak with my Chardonnay. Even if the grape looks at an oak barrel, I probably will not like that wine. Yet, my mom has had Fetzer Chardonnay before and this lived up to all her expectations for it. So, like I said, not for me, but this one could be for you, especially with the very attainable SRP of $10.

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The biggest asset to the Fetzer name is the breadth of their selections. Every wine lover can find a bottle that will appeal to their tastes. Are you familiar with Fetzer wines? Do you have a favorite? Let me know, and if you don’t, go out a buy a few bottles and tell me what you think!

These wines were kindly provided to me by the wineries/importers listed above, but all opinions are my own.

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#WineStudio: There’s Nothing Satanic About Being Organic

In 2018 words like ‘organic,’ ‘biodynamic,’ and ‘sustainable’ get thrown around interchangeably, and I feel like half the time people who use them don’t even know what they mean. This is particularly true about wine. What does it mean that your wine is made with organic grapes? Will that impact the taste? Does that mean a higher price point? Are you giving up quality for some vague word that may not really mean that much? These are the kinds of questions that come up most often, and during the Fetzer Brands #WineStudio we did in January, we got to know more about the winery that even my sister’s boyfriend knows is the organic wine, Bonterra.

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Since 1987, Bonterra vineyards has been farmed organically. The goal behind this from the get-go was to show what a varietal was capable of in the purest way possible. Instead of using chemicals, the winery now highlights the sheep and chickens allowed to roam the vineyards in order to munch on insects and trim weeds. What I would say is even more interesting than the label organic is the Biodynamic farming the winery stands behind. When certified as Biodynamic by Demeter, the farm establishes that it is a self-contained and self-sustaining living organism that is aligned with nature. There are as few external inputs as possible with the intent to allow the land and the nature around it to thrive. For Bonterra, it’s about respect, and as you’ll see with the two wines I tried, that respect has paid off.

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The 2015 Merlot was a complex wine that we dove into as we discussed the ins and outs of everything organic. The inclusion of small amounts of Petite Sirah and Malbec added complexity to this Merlot which had aromas of blackberry and black cherry. The flavors of those dark berries with a hint of oak and smoke came through on the palate, leading to a wine that could stand up on its own and provided a lot of interesting layers for the group to discuss. It was a wine with structure that would pair well with burgers, portabella mushrooms, and any food with an earthy quality to it. The SRP for this bottle is $16, making it even more approachable for the average buyer. If you enjoy Merlot, this is one worthy of adding to your home.

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While the Merlot was a solid, dependable option to add to your dinner table, the other wine we opened was the 2015 The Roost Single Vineyard Chardonnay. The grapes came from the Blue Heron Vineyard, located between the shore of the upper Russian River Valley and a blue heron nesting site. On the palate, this golden wine provided notes of juicy apples and citrus fruits, with a creamy nutty quality that added some additional ‘oomph’ to the bottle. It also had those vanilla and oak notes that come from French Oak Barrels, meaning it was a bottle that was too oaky for me. After a glass, I left the rest to my friends who happily finished it off. With an SRP of $45, if you are a Chardonnay fan the price is absolutely worth it, but if you tend to stay away from anything Chardonnay, I would not recommend starting with this bottle. You could love it, but I think with the SRP, it’s a bottle to really meant to be purchased by those who can appreciate it.

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As Bonterra explained during our #WineStudio session, it’s easy to explain the difference between a strawberry that is organic and one that isn’t. Nowadays, many people understand what it means to farm organically when it comes to the fruit you eat. Yet wine can be a bit more confusing to some. However, at the beginning of every new bottle of wine, there are grapes and winemaking is just another type of farming. So while it’s important to me that a wine taste good, I also understand the value of organic wines, especially when they taste as good as the ones Bonterra produces. Cheers!

These wines were kindly provided to me by the wineries/importers listed above, but all opinions are my own.

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#WineStudio: Feeling the Echo of Prosecco

Valdobbiadene. While I had experience with the words ‘prosecco,’ ‘Italy,’ and ‘wine’ before 2017, the first word of this post was one with which I was not as familiar. I’ve been interested in wine almost from the moment I turned 21. Four years in, I know more than I did before, and still have a ton of learning ahead of me. When I first dove into the world of wine, I wanted to learn everything about Merlot and protect it from the Sideways haters. I still love Merlot, but I’ve certainly expanded my repertoire since then.

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So what does Valdobbiadene offer wine lovers? If you’re into history, bubbles, and a magnificent countryside, it provides a lot. The oldest known link between the region and prosecco dates back to 1772. Many of the wineries here are small and/or family-based. The hillside landscape provides soils that are a conglomeration of rock, sand, and clay, which equates to varied land and unique wine. It has a little something for every interest. All you have to have is an desire to discover more about wine, and you can follow Valdobbiadene down any path you choose.

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More than halfway through this #WineStudio session, I opened the Valdoca Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore Brut Naturae “Rive di Santo Stefano” which probably had the most eye catching bottle of the whole program. None of these bottles featured bespectacled critters or surrealist artwork; however, the blue bottle popped and if housed next to the others we had previously tasted, it would stand out the most. On the palate there were notes of Granny Smith apple, crisp lemon, and some round pear flavors. There was a decent bit of acid and minerality here, but no follow through. It didn’t linger long, and although it had the most interesting look on the outside, it fell more in the middle of the pack for me once I tasted it. Buy this one if you’re looking for something to please a wide range of people; that’s where I think it will be best received.

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For the people that love a touch of sweet to their prosecco, the second bottle I tried for this last post was one that would satisfy. The Tenuta degli Ultimi Rive di Collalto “Biancariva Conegliano Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore DOCG was a rich golden color with notes of lemon and lime, white fruits including pear and peach, as well as a nice dose of minerality to finish it all off. I’d guess anyone who enjoys fruity cocktails that are just somewhat sweet would flock to this option if given the choice.

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The Conte Collalto Conegliano Valdobbiadene Brut Prosecco Superiore DOCG was the exact kind of wine to open for the beginning of a party, or to share between two as an aperitif. This one was all citrus at the start, with lemon peel dominating. However, as it opened up, there were notes of tart apple and a hint of herbs. It had just enough zing to wake up the palate, but plenty of versatility to please a wide range of palates. Buy a few bottles of this for your next dinner party, and wait for all your guests to ask for a second glass.

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While I didn’t know it at the time, I saved one of the best for last. The final bottle I opened was the 2015 Malibran Valdobbiadene Prosecco DOCG “Credamora” which abounded with floral, citrus, and fruity notes all wrapped up in dough. The most apparent notes were those of apple, pear, white flowers, lemon, and sourdough bread. This wine was very soft, with the most sensory experiences coming from the gentle bubbles on the tongue and the prominent yeast on the nose. As the wine warmed, I swear it was like walking by a boulangerie any time I got a whiff. Whereas the previous bottle would make a perfect aperitif, I quickly came to discover that this one needed food. Although I am not much of a chef, my sister and I have taken to meal prep, and the night I opened this bottle, I was chowing down on some grilled chicken with rosemary, cauliflower, and rice. The cauliflower/prosecco combo was not one that made this bottle any more special; however, the chicken became significantly less boring with each sip. This was an incredibly subtle prosecco, and if you like something that makes you search for the hidden layers, add this to your fridge. Throughout the time we spent exploring this area, I discovered just how diverse each bottle I opened was, and this was no exception.

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And so the Valdobbiadene posts come to an end! This was one of the most intense sessions of #WineStudio, and I learned so much about the region, the wine, and prosecco in general. As always, I encourage you to join us all at 9pm (my Baltimore time) on Tuesdays. Just follow the hashtag WineStudio on Twitter. Even if you don’t have the specific wine we are trying, open something up you love and chime in with questions to learn all you can about the topic of the month. I’ve become a better wino because of #WineStudio, and I want everyone to jump on board with me, too! See you next time.

 

These wines were kindly provided to me by the wineries/importers listed above, but all opinions are my own.

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#WineStudio: Wine in Bloom, Better Than Perfume

Over the course of the various monthly #WineStudio sessions I have participated in, I have discovered not all critter wines are created equal, New Jersey puts out some good juice, and that Albariño should be more of a household name than it is. I usually like the winery and like the wine, but rarely do I think the way they make wine is the coolest thing ever and also go gaga for the bottles. However, that was the case with Adorada, another wine made under the larger Fetzer Wine Brand. We don’t know what was in the wines we tasted, and as we spoke to the winemaker, we learned that the way Margaret Leonardi blends it is essentially blind. She blends different amounts of the grapes she has in order to see how the flavors play with one another and create a balanced, aromatic wine that captivates all of the senses. Even while the harvest is occurring,grapes are picked with varying sugar levels and fermented in a number of ways so some develop sweeter characteristics and others are encouraged to highlight their dry sides. Margaret referred to this as a “spice rack,” which made it sound all the neater to me.

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I’ve encountered several great bottles that I stock up on through #WineStudio. I even joined one winery’s wine club after trying a couple of bottles through this program. However, the 2016 Adorada Eau de California Pinot Gris was the first one to wholly surprise and excite me. I went in with very low expectations because I am not usually a fan of light whites, yet Margaret showed me just what you can do with a gentle, thoughtful hand. There were light white fruits, like pear on the nose as well as floral notes similar to lilies and orchids. On the palate it was slightly sweet and full of juicy fruits like melons. There was just a hint of lemon zest, and while I usually crave the zing of citrus, this was a beautifully delicate option. It was like you were just thrown into an orchard blindfolded and had to find your way around. My sister’s boyfriend finished his glass within five minutes and when I showed some surprise he said, “What? This is really good.”

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I want 100 bottles of this stuff. I want to drink it when it’s pouring down rain and dreary outside to brighten my day and I want to open a bottle when the humidity at 90 percent to cool me down. One recommendation, finish this the day that you open it. I saved one glass for the following day, and it lost a touch of its sheen. Overall, for $20 this is a steal. I often say on this blog that X wine is worth the cost, or that despite the cost Y wine is worth the purchase. This one is worth more than the SRP. So buy as much as you can and enjoy this real gem from Fetzer Wine Brands. It’s much too early to say this, but I am knighting this as my favorite wine of 2018 (so far). Send me a bottle or two if you take my advice and stock up on this one. It’ll delight; I promise.

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The other bottle we were able to try during this #WineStudio session was the 2016 Adorada Eau de California Rosé. The color of fresh summer watermelon, the most forceful note on the palate that I picked up on was the strawberry. From the first sip until my last, that was the thing that always hit me. Other significant notes on which I picked up were orange, red apple, and light white flowers. This totally felt like a summer drink, although you could certainly enjoy it any time of year. Given the option between the two, I think it’s clear I would have gone for the Pinot Gris, but that’s only because it impressed me more than any wine I’ve had this year. However, the rosé was very enjoyable and one of the more complex, fragrant, and flavorful ones that I have ever had. Since this one also rings in with an SRP of $20, I suggest getting both and experimenting for yourself. As for the black wax that seals each bottle, run the top under very hot water for about 30 seconds and then the tab should pull off easily. It’s a little extra work, but for a wine this good, it’s totally worth it.

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I honestly wasn’t expecting much from these simple bottles, but between the classic and clean packaging that I could see millennials flocking to, the layered flavors, and each bottle being a multi-sensory experience, this is one of those wineries that you cannot ignore once you learn about it. Slow down, sniff, sip, and enjoy everything that these wines have to offer. In our hectic lives these days, it’s nice to take a moment out of the day to do this, and there’s no better wine to do this with than Adorada.

 

These wines were kindly provided to me by the wineries/importers listed above, but all opinions are my own. 

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#WineStudio: Bourbon-Aged and Setting the Stage

What is one of the most important factors in some wines about which the average consumer never thinks? The barrel. While I feel like talk about barrels comes up among wine enthusiasts, and is often also mentioned casually around an oaky Chardonnay, if I asked my best friend if she had thoughts on barrel-aged wine or the types of barrels winemakers use, she would look at me like I was crazy. Well, she might not because she knows I’m into wine, but she would certainly be confused.

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So what do barrels bring to wine? For one, they impart different flavors onto a wine. Most notable are the vanilla and coconut notes that often come through in Chardonnay like I mentioned above. Also, aging a wine in the right barrel can smooth it out and give it softer characteristics. Some wineries even throw bad wine into barrels for too long and mess with additives until you can hardly tell what grape was used. However, in the hands of passionate winemakers who don’t make willy-nilly decisions, barrels can enhance a wine and bring it to a level it could not have reached otherwise. There are dozens of decisions to make when it comes to barrels, such as American v. French, new v. old, and now winemakers are even opting for bourbon barrel-aged barrels. For 1000 Stories, one of the brands under Fetzer Wines that we explored with #WineStudio not too long ago, purchasing bourbon aged barrels wasn’t some reckless recent decision to hop alongside the fad of barrel aged gins that are hitting the shelves with increasing frequency. They were using neutralized bourbon barrels 30 years ago and have brought it back in a more formal and determined manner now without stripping the barrels of what make them unique. In turn, they have created a varied profile of wines that have a strong set of characteristics that set them apart of the average wine you may pick up with an animal on the label.

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I opened the 2015 1000 Stories Batch 38 Bourbon Barrel-Aged Zinfandel first because I hardly ever buy a nice Zinfandel to keep at home and wanted to mix things up a bit. This wine had incredible depth and richness with black fruits, toffee, brown sugar, and a bit of char. The long linger after each sip was where that edge of smoke really came through. There was also a touch of sweet vanilla here, which the winemaker attributed to the barrel used. The element played well against the darkness of the wine and softened it up a bit. The SRP of $19 makes this an affordable option that is ideal for cook outs, cold nights in, and any time you’re craving a no-frills wine. I ate it with a pork burrito bowl covered in as much salsa as I could handle, and the juicy elements of this one balanced it out well. If you want something bold that develops even more layers as it opens up, give this one a go. The 2015 1000 Stories Half Batch Bourbon Barrel-Aged Petit Sirah was a lighter ruby color than the Zinfandel, yet had just as much kick to it. This one abounded with ripe dark fruit like plum and fig, as well as smoke and maple. There was great balance between the deep fruit notes and the heavier notes of smoke and char. It was memorable yet elegant. If you don’t want to pick up both bottles (although why wouldn’t you?), I would recommend buying the Zinfandel if you want something a touch juicier and going for the Petit Sirah if you’re craving something rougher. Personally, I preferred all the layers of the Zinfandel, but you can’t go wrong with either option. Neither your palate nor your wallet will be hurt by these two.

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Even if you are hesitant to try bourbon barrel-aged wine, next time you’re in the wine aisle, take a look and see if any of the bottles highlight the barrels used. Try and pick out something different and explore the ways in which a barrel can have a huge impact on a number of grapes. Barrels aren’t just around to create round, vanilla, oaky Chardonnay; they are an incredibly important decision a winemaker can make in regards to the flavor profile they want to produce. Look out for 1000 Stories, which is constantly experimenting with flavors, barrels, grapes, and any other element that might make their memorable wines all the more remarkable. I appreciate any winery willing to take chances, and 1000 Stories is one that I came to admire during our #WineStudio session. If you haven’t joined me yet for this Twitter wine education session, I hope you do now.

These wines were kindly provided to me by the wineries/importers listed above, but all opinions are my own. 

 

 

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#WineStudio: New Year, New Jersey

Raise your hand if you’ve made a joke about New Jersey sometime in recent memory. I cannot be the only one, I’m sure. The Real Housewives franchise, Jersey Shore, and pretty much any other mainstream thing to do with the state has cemented this. It might not be okay, but it’s just how it is. So what does Jersey have to offer the world of wine? It turns out, quite a lot. During a recent #WineStudio, we got to learn about the Outer Coastal Plain of New Jersey, an area that I knew nothing about. Located in the southern part of Jersey, the area has sandy soils, a decent growing period, and a passionate set of vintners who made it clear that making Jersey wine is nothing of which to be ashamed. In fact, the wineries we encountered over this month were secure in their beliefs about their wine, what New Jersey has to offer, and the fact that the wines are more of a representation of their state than any trashy TV show. After tasting these bottles, I’m inclined to believe them.

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The first I tried was the one that blew my mind. That’s not to say that the following wines were bad, but this one was a ‘woah’ wine that I would stock up on and enjoy until the end of days. The 2013 Palmaris Outer Coastal Plain Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve from Tomasello Winery was full of dark fruit with floral lavender notes I have come to associate with Petit Verdot, which makes sense because 20% of the bottle was made up of that varietal. Smoke was another prevalent characteristic that did not dull at all as the wine opened up. It’s a great one to buy while we’re still in the midst of frigid winter months. For your first experience, I suggest opening it in front of a fireplace, with someone you like. It was one of my favorite wines of 2017, and it might be one of your favorites of 2018. It clocks in at $40, so it’s not the everyday affordable wine for most, but it’s a great investment for those who appreciate something a little darker with a lot of depth.

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The 2016 Sharrott Winery Barrel Reserve Chardonnay was a bottle that clearly feels like the Chardonnay you probably grew up around, yet with a smarter hand. It does have the oak aspect to it; however, it also has an elegant balance between the roundness of the oak and the general flavor profile of the grape. It feels more elevated and certainly more approachable for haters like me that used to scream ABC (Anything But Chardonnay). It admittedly still has too much oak for me, but my mom happily finished off a glass. If you like the big names like Sonoma Cutrer or Kendall Jackson like her, I’d encourage you to give this bottle a try. One of the other participants compared it to a Pina Colada too, so if coconuts and tropical fruits are your idea of a good time, open this one up. The SRP of $25 certainly makes it more accessible to a broader range of people, and it might just be the perfect gateway for you into how New Jersey is making a name for itself in the wine world.

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After the tropical notes of the Chardonnay, I was ready for a red again and opened the 2013 Pheasant Hill Vineyard Syrah from Unionville Vineyards, which was a brighter option compared to the broody Palmaris wine. More red fruit, particularly cherry, a mouthwatering touch of acid, and hints of oak and earthiness all created this balanced wine. It was not quite as nuanced as the Cabernet we tried, but I’d imagine it’ll age well and that might give it more ‘oomph’ over the coming years. This wine was approachable and flavorful, the best option for a red wine lover who generally likes Pinot Noir or Merlot that wants to break into something new.

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The final two wines were from William Heritage Winery. The first was the uber pale 2016 Outer Coastal Plain Chenin Blanc and was a bit sweet for my taste, but I could imagine this pairing fantastically with some spicy Indian food. I ate it with a half of a buttered biscuit, and even that made the wine friendlier as the acidity in it cut all the fat in my choice. This is one that clearly needs food. For friends and family who like moscato, this is a great option to open them up to other grapes, and it’s one you can make confidently. The notes I found here were apples, sweet citrus fruits, and a touch of lemongrass. At $18, it’s the perfect price point to take to a BYO and give these wines a chance.

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The sparkling wine I saved for last. After two months of all things bubbly, I needed a bit of a break, yet this bottle was very different than the prosecco we dove into in the latter part of 2017. Effervescent but with an incredibly soft texture, this 2014 Outer Coastal Plain Estate Reserve Vintage Brut was like slipping on a pair of silky pajamas, hopping on the couch, and watching your favorite series for the twentieth time. Or maybe instead of your favorite show, you could sip this while you reread The Great Gatsby since the logo on this bottle seemed very reminiscent of the 1920s to me. Either way, you won’t be going wrong once you pop this cork.  The SRP here is $40, so I say buy a bottle or two and put it away for a fun occasion. After your first try, I’m sure the $40 will make sense and you’ll invest in a few more to stash away.

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So have I convinced you to give this part of the east coast a try? The first bottle I mentioned was all I needed to change my mind. Not all the bottles were ones that fit in with my preferred flavors. Still, what I can say is that this session highlighted how Jersey has a wine to suit every need. Girls night? Pop the bubbles I mentioned. Visiting mom and dad for a holiday? Take that Chardonnay. Want to impress a date? Bring the Cabernet. Yeah, you could wait a few years to see if everyone else is as impressed with New Jersey as I am, but you’ll be missing out in the meantime. That would be a shame.

These wines were kindly provided to me by the wineries/importers listed above, but all opinions are my own. 

 

 

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